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Pre-history and Palaeontology

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Ancient Island

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This archaeological site sheds light on the culture and lifestyle of ancient habitants of the UAE

Located off the coast of Abu Dhabi emirate, the small island of Umm an-Nar features an archaeological site that has yielded significant finds that have helped to illuminate the culture and lifestyle of Bronze Age inhabitants of the United Arab Emirates.
Between approximately 2500 BCE and 2000 BCE, this small island was home to a relatively large settlement that played an active role in regional commerce, with artefacts showing that people on the island traded with civilisations as far away as ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and the Indus Valley Civilisation (modern-day Pakistan and India). 

Tombs and Buildings

The island, first excavated in 1959 by a Danish archaeology team, contains important buildings and tombs of the Umm an-Nar Culture. The cemetery comprises above-ground tombs, which are circular in shape and range in diameter from 6 to 12 metres. They are several metres high and are divided into chambers accessed through small entrances. 
Each chamber was designed to contain several bodies, but the precise number is difficult to tell because of disturbances by grave robbers and the passage of time.
The tombs were constructed using dressed stones. Some of these original stones were used in the restoration of a number of tombs during the 1970s. The ring walls of the larger buildings were sometimes decorated with carvings of Oryx, oxen, snakes and camels.  
Several buildings made from rough-cut stone were also excavated on Umm an-Nar Island. These comprised houses and a warehouse. The latter was used to store and transport goods from the island to regions around the Arabian Gulf. 


Lifestyle

Archaeologists have recovered a number of objects from the settlement on the island, providing insight into the lives of these early people. Artefacts include necklaces, jewellery and even a gold hairpin; copper weapons; and imported and local pottery decorated with elaborate designs. Bronze objects, such as fishing hooks, also were found. These were made from locally sourced copper that likely came from the mountains near the inland oasis of Al Ain.
Artefacts such as fish hooks and net sinkers illustrate the people’s dependence on the sea for food. Dugong, also called “sea cow”, seems to have been a staple of the diet, and the hide and oil also were used. Now a protected species, dugongs must once have been plentiful, since many of their bones were found at the site.
The site is not accessible to the public.

Did you know ?

‘Umm al Nar Culture’ is the academic term used for the civilisation in southeast Arabia that flourished between approximately 2500 BCE and 2000 BCE.

Location Details

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Sas Al Nakhl Island,
Abu Dhabi

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